4 Pet Projects In Retail That Reveal Much About CX

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How much do Americans spend on non-human family members? Put it this way: If everyone put lipstick on their pigs, they might spend as much on beauty products as they do on their pets.

Nearly 87 million American households – 66% – include pets as members. And each year, the amount they spend on their furry, feathered and scaly friends grows like a goldfish in a large bowl – a bowl now worth about $143.6 billion.

That is how much pet owners were projected to spend on their animal babies in 2023, according to the American Pet Products Association (from $136.8 billion in 2022). For context, the total U.S. beauty and personal care market is expected to reach $100 billion in 2024, according to Statista.

That’s a lot of kibble, catnip and, potentially, lipstick.

Out With The Babies, In With The Wag-, Fin- And Purr-Babies

An interesting side note is that in 2023, the number of households with pets declined to 86.9 million from 90.5 million in 2022. Yet spending on those pets still rose.

The higher spending is likely due to more people choosing to have pets instead of babies, leading to pet humanization. Nearly 40% of dog owners alone opted for pets over parenthood, USA Today reports. In total, the 65.1 million dog families spend an average of $912 annually, according to Forbes.

Cat owners are nipping at their heels: 46.5 million households have purr-babies on whom they spend an average of $653 annually.

Pet owners also buy for birds, fish, reptile, horses and a range of small animals – from chinchillas to rats.

Stack ‘Em High And Watch The Fur Fly

A fertile market seeds innovation, and the pet category is seeing a lot of it. Following are four key trends determining where pet owners and retailers will be investing in 2024.

Pet-Spend Trend 1: Non-Essential But Suddenly Must-Have Products

Pets play, poop and grow like babies. We can even walk them in strollers like babies. If products are available to help, pet owners are buying them.

Take supplements. Global sales of pet vitamins and such are expected to reach $1.05 billion by 2027, according to an analysis by Grand View Research. This category includes dog vitamins, doggy probiotics, CBD  and fish oil (for cats).

Hygiene products also are selling – think pet wipes, deodorizers and spritzers, and even mouthwash (“dental health solutions”). On Amazon, a doting pet parent can purchase a pet spa gift basket.

Pet potties have entered the must-have territory as well. Crystal-based PrettyLitter changes color to reveal potential kitty health issues. Apartment dwellers can splurge on a self-draining Porch Potty (with scented fire hydrant) for $279 or go all-out on a Fydoo self-cleaning dog toilet for $972. The more budget-conscious pet owners can find washable pee pads that look like area rugs.

And pet play has become smart business. There are pet robot companions, interactive balls and activity boards for cats. 

Pet-Spend Trend 2: A Good Shake: Partnerships With Non-Pet Brands

Pet owners house their pets, so they also buy paint and pipes and hardware. Lowe’s and Petco picked up on this and in 2023 added store-within-store Petco boutiques that carry food, toys and pet supplies in nearly 300 Lowe’s locations (following a 2022 test run). Additionally, Petco Vetco clinics visit 75 Lowe’s stores once a month.

Pet owners can be crafty, too, which is why PetSmart and Michaels partnered for a limited-time 2023 holiday promotion, during which each gave their customers discounts for the other retailer’s store, Retail Dive reported. In the deal, Michaels’ email subscribers received 20% off purchases from PetSmart’s holiday collections, and PetSmart Treats rewards members received discounts on custom framing.

Plenty of other partnerships are up for adoption. At Flagstop Carwash in Virginia, owners can get their pets washed. At Scrub It Up Car Wash Laundromat, Pet Wash in Oregon, owners can do all of the above. Mars Petcare, maker of Pedigree, IAMs and other brands, partners with Hilton to offer for pet-friendly stays that include access to Mars pet-care experts, while Petco partners with Marriott Bonvoy for pet-approved hotel stays. Petco can even ship beds, bowls and toys in advance for the pet’s comfort.And many celebrities have aligned with pet brands and retailers, including singer Bret Michaels (PetSmart), actor Ellen DeGeneres (Petco Foundation) and Martha Stewart (PrettyLitter).

Pet-Spend Trend 3: Reward Programs That Sit Up

Pets are unconditionally loyal, so it shouldn’t be surprising that some pet rewards programs are passing the loyalty test in their efforts to encourage wider spending. A couple ranked among Newsweek’s top list of all U.S. loyalty programs.

Among them is the PetSmart Treats Rewards program, according to Pet Product News. Members earn eight points for every dollar they spend on every purchase, including services such as grooming, training and doggie day camp.

At Pet Supplies Plus, rewards members are treated to birthday and adoption-day surprises, free products, and a personalized pet dashboard to track their earned points and tailored content.

Meanwhile, Petco has transformed its Vital Care rewards program into a two-tiered platform. Members of the free Vital Care Core tier earn complimentary grooming, free bags of pet food and an app-based dashboard for managing a pet’s care. Its fee-based Vital Care Premier tier offers 20% off grooming, unlimited routine vet exams and $15 in monthly rewards.

Pet-Spend Trend 4: Non-Essential But Captivating Services

Pet owners spend $11.8 billion a year on non-veterinarian services such as boarding, training, walking and insurance. (Fun fact: the first pet insurance policy was issued in 1982 to the TV dog Lassie). Non-essential services are gaining wallet share, as well.

The GoDoggo free app highlights dog-friendly locations and events, from parks to pubs. Retailers can ensure their events are included in these apps and use them to encourage activities with local businesses, such as a dog-days brunches at outdoor cafes.

For owners who prefer to bathe their pets themselves, DIY dog grooming and self-serve pet washing shops are springing up independently and within larger pet chains.

What Non-Pet Retailers Can Learn

Which pet owners are prone to buying these goods and services? Millennials are most likely to own pets – 33% of this age group do, compared with 25% of Gen Xers and24% of boomers who own pets, the APPA reports.

Yet millennials don’t spend the most. According to an analysis by MarketWatch, each generation spends the following on their pets a year:

  • Millennials: $731, or 0.72% of their income.
  • Gen X: $866, or 0.68% of their income.
  • Boomers: $793, or 0.96% of their income.

Regardless of age, consumers share one wish: to include their pets in their full lives. Any retailer that supports this wish should benefit. Even beauty chains can add pet shampoos and skin-care products near the lipstick.

With 87 billion pet-owning households, it’s likely a good share of those lipstick buyers have a fur-baby at home.

Jenn McMillen
Jenn McMillen is Founder and Chief Accelerant of Incendio, a firm specializing in customer-facing initiatives, whether it’s marketing or technology. She was the VP of Loyalty and CRM for GameStop & Michaels.

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